The BSAA has a reputation of being the “software police” in Australia, with headlines like “Software: Pirate hunters swoop” and “Copyright: No longer a soft touch”, reinforcing this negative perception. Their submissions during the drafting of the recent AUSFTA also helped highlight their interest in protecting the commercial goals of software vendors.
As someone who has written books and developed software programs Jim's firsthand experience of the importance of intellectual property issues such as software licensing means he has a legitimate interest in seeing intellectual property protected, especially copyright.
While the recent changes to the Copyright Act 1968 (due to the AUSFTA) can be seen as aimed at rogue IT managers, Jim says “the real message is for company directors.” Indeed he says they “often find that IT managers are struggling because they are endeavouring to implement systems, but there is not a recognition above them, at senior management level, that these things need to be managed.”
Indeed the BSAA has tried to get the message out, even going so far as to organise an AICD Director's Briefing (Software: Is your business breaking the law?) for October last year, to educate company directors as to the ramifications of the recent changes to the Copyright Act. It was not a pure BSAA event, independent experts were presenting and company directors that had experienced the benefits of software asset management (SAM) firsthand, were available to answer questions. The briefing would have helped raise the awareness amongst company directors of the seriousness of the changes, yet it was cancelled because of a complete lack of interest!
Many might argue that their organisation is not involved in illegal software use, either due to the professionalism of their IT staff, or the integrity of their business leaders, and so a formal SAM program is unnecessary. Jim sees it differently, “if you’re not managing these assets, then human nature is such that someone in your organisation is probably copying illegally, that’s just human nature, it occurs through mistakes, it occurs through ignorance.” The bottom line is that “if you don’t have [controls and mechanisms] there’s a 90% chance we believe that you’ll have unlicensed software and if you leave it for a long time that will accumulate and you’re probably risking at least civil action, and potentially criminal action against the company’s directors.”
Policing and enforcement of the new Copyright Act is something I will cover in more detail in the third part of my interview with Jim, but we discussed the fact that criminal prosecution is only likely in the most serious of cases. In that case, it is almost certain that a company director would be facing criminal charges, and the sort of humiliation the directors of HIH faced when their financial shenanigans were made public. Depending upon the situation, it would certainly affect a company's share price, and possible even deal a fatal blow to the market's trust in that organisation.
Jim is quick to stress that there are important positive effects of implementing SAM. Companies that have implemented SAM have experienced reduced costs associated with:
- Reduced need to support desktops that have often had non-standard (sometimes cracked) applications installed
- Lower internet usage due to fewer internet radio and filesharing downloads.
- Improved productivity due to the removal of unwanted games and entertainment software.
- Lower software license costs due to a better understanding of what the business actually requires.
- Better negotiating position with major software vendors.
That wraps up this first part of the my interview with Jim Macnamara, in the second part I will cover the negative effect that a high piracy rate has on local software developers.